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Curtin University
John Curtin Day
John Curtin Medallists

Margaret Culbong (1999)

As part of her vision of improving the health and welfare of Aboriginal people, Margaret Culbong has been instrumental in setting up Aboriginal-controlled health services and in raising the profile of Aboriginal health issues throughout Western Australia.

As an enrolled nurse, Margaret worked in both the Kimberley and the Murchison Gascoyne regions, experiencing first-hand the many health problems faced by Aboriginal communities.

Since the early 1970s she has worked both within government agencies and Aboriginal organisations to develop health services relevant to Aboriginal needs.

As a founding member of the Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service committee, and its Executive Director since 1996, she has helped develop this Aboriginal-run and controlled organisation, which now offers a full range of health services to Aboriginal people, including mental health services. She has also used her significant energy and determination to help establish similar services in Wiluna and Carnarvon and to set up a mobile clinic which services out-stations in the Murchison Gascoyne region.

Growing up as an Aboriginal in a post-war Central Wheatbelt town - discriminated against and with no real voice - Margaret has fought in many arenas to ensure that Aboriginal people are heard and their rights respected.

As well as being instrumental in getting more Aboriginal Health Workers employed by the Health Department, she has been involved in establishing the role of Aboriginal Education Workers within the Education Department and in establishing the need for an Aboriginal Visitors Scheme within WA prisons.

In addition, Margaret has provided leadership at local, state and national levels through her membership of a range of health and social justice bodies, including the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation, the Geraldton Streetwork Aboriginal Corporation, the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health, the State Aboriginal Justice Council and the Health Department of Western Australia's Ethics Committee. She is an Executive Member of both the State and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Despite her numerous commitments, and that she has been beset by health and family problems, Margaret has always been available to her community. She is regularly contacted as an adviser, a counsellor and as an agent of change in issues ranging from housing to welfare, legal assistance and family support.

The awarding of the John Curtin Medal to Margaret Culbong enables the University to recognise the significant contribution she has made to Aboriginal health and welfare and the wonderful role model she provides for Aboriginal people.

Recognising her outstanding vision, leadership and community service will help to emphasise the importance of self-determination for Aboriginal people and will solidify the respect that is held for Margaret within the Aboriginal community.